Selective versus Specific

Am I the only one who worries about what might be a trivial point except for the ability to mislead when the word specific is used to describe how selective a compound is.  Specific to me implies that said compound interacts with one target and one target only – this we all know is nonsense.  At best a compound shows good selectivity (greater than 100 fold, greater than 1000 fold – whatever you might choose to define selective) against the targets it has been tested against and that of course assumes the assays can really be compared in such a simple way – is radioligand binding  a good measure of selectivity – what about the kinetics at target, functional efficacy etc.  Anyway back to selective v. specific the danger as I see it is when a compound gets described as “specific” any pharmacology seen with that compound is then ascribed to interaction with that target – which may be true but there again may not thus we can end up with a lot of fairly misleading literature.  Of course the worst case is when a compound is shown to have weak interaction against one target, tested against no another target and promptly described as specific – you will have all seen examples.

Perhaps journal editors and referee’s should ban the word “specific” from any article discussing the pharmacological profile of any compound – or am I being just being an unfair nit-picker!